Sweet Ideas for Your Sweetie!

Nothing says “I love you” quite like gourmet chocolate.

Here at Cary Magazine, we’ve had the opportunity to sample some amazing treats. In honor of Valentine’s Day, may we suggest a few of our favorites?

Videri Chocolate Factory

At this bean-to-bar haven, each chocolate bar is hand-wrapped with love.

“When you open your box, two gorgeous, shiny bars are waiting for you,” said co-proprietor and chocolate-maker Starr Sink Ratto.

Her husband, Sam, is fellow co-owner/chocolate maker, while convivial manager Chris Heavener rounds out the partnership team. Gracious customer service, social responsibility and attention to detail are fundamental tenets at Videri. The factory opened in December 2011 in the former Raleigh train depot.

“We are group- and family-friendly,” Starr said. “A free self-guided tour is available anytime we’re open.”

Endeavoring to source fair-trade, organic ingredients whenever possible, Videri uses select cacao beans from Central and South America. Employees hand sort the beans before winnowing, roasting and grinding.

Videri offers chocolate bars, gift-boxed truffles, hot chocolate mixes, baking chocolate and a variety of other chocolate-themed items.


Escazu Artisan Chocolates

A former chef, head chocolate-maker Hallot Parson visited Costa Rica in 2005 and met a farmer who was growing organic cacao and making chocolate.

“That trip spurred my imagination, and I realized not many people in the U.S. were creating chocolate this way,” said Parson, who named his shop after the Costa Rican town he visited.  He joined forces with Danielle Centeno, a Venezuela native and Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, and opened Escazu in 2008.

Not many chocolatiers visit the sourcing farms, but Parson and Centeno believe relationships with growers are vital.

“These connections help ensure the quality and integrity of the chocolate,” Parson said.  Traditional methods of sorting, winnowing and grinding involve using a vintage 1920s roaster and stone grinder imported from Spain. The grinding process lasts four days, allowing for sugar crystal reduction and evaporation of volatile flavors. The result? Superior handcrafted bars and an ever-evolving assortment of confections.

Besides eclectic truffles and confections like clove orange and honey chamomile, popular bars include the best-selling 65 percent dark chocolate with sea salt and 74 percent chipotle chili. Decadent hot chocolate is prepared using rare recipes from yesteryear.

Order online for shipping or no-contact pickup at the shop, located at 936 North Blount St., Raleigh.


Chocolate Smiles

The downtown Cary chocolatier has been creating sweets for more than 35 years.

“It’s great to own a place where everyone coming in is happy,” said proprietor Melanie Williams. The store is known for exceptional customer service and wide product selection.

“During the holidays, the wait time can be an hour or more, so calling ahead is wise,” she said.

Premium milk, dark and white chocolate is crafted using six tempering kettles. Pennsylvania-sourced chocolate arrives in 10-pound blocks.

Chocolates are available by the piece, although most candy is sold by the pound. Seasonal specialty truffles include champagne, cherry blush and pistachio (call for availability). Locally grown chocolate-dipped strawberries are available at Valentine’s Day and beyond.

“Sometimes I even go to the fields and pick them,” Williams said. “We also dip Maraschino cherries in dark or milk chocolate.”

The retail shop is closed, but confections can be ordered online or over the phone, at (919) 469-5282, and picked up at the store. chocolatesmiles.com


Handmade chocolates, fudge and caramels tempt patrons at the Morrisville Kilwins.

Kilwins is where people celebrate, says Kristen Hernandez, and she should know.

Hernandez and her husband, Luis, own several Triangle locations of the gourmet ice cream and confectionary shop. In 2007, they opened their Cary store and have since added locations in Morrisville and Raleigh.

“The smiles and happy faces we receive from our customers after they enjoy our original recipe ice cream, handmade chocolates, fudge or caramels make all our hard work worthwhile,” said Hernandez. “Knowing that we can bring a little happiness to people during these difficult times brings joy and peace to our days.”

Among Kilwins specialties is the creamy Mackinac Island fudge, made on-site with premium ingredients from recipes developed by Don and Katy Kilwin, who founded the franchise in 1947. Besides the classic chocolate, Hernandez says the top-selling flavors are turtle, with pecans and caramel, and the vanilla-based Mud Fudge, with chocolate chunks and caramel.

For Valentine’s Day, Kilwins is featuring assorted handmade truffles and chocolates, packaged in heart-shaped boxes.



  • Scott Bosworth says:

    Great list, but it’s not complete without Cary’s Chocolat GRACE!

    • Amber Keister says:

      Hi Scott, I love Chocolat GRACE as well. I actually spoke with the owner a few months ago, and her production is quite limited right now due to the pandemic. By the time I posted the story, her Valentine’s Day chocolates were sold out. I look forward to being able to promote her business again — maybe by Easter!

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